yesterday we were able to attend a training on teaching with Thinkblocks. i have to admit, in 48 hours i've become obsessed. i'd heard rumblings about it from teachers at my school who had already been trained, but i still didn't quite see what the fuss was about. not overly thrilled to be attending a session the second day back from break, but, well, always have an open mind, right?
it was awesome.
i tried to explain it to a coworker who didn't attend the training and i failed, so i'm not sure what kind of a job i can do here. but the fundamentals behind it are based on brain research about how we, as humans, think. the research shows four fundamental patterns of human thought- distinctions, relationships, systems, and perspectives. although they go into depth about all of this (i felt like i was in a college philosophy class but also dabbling in the movie i heart huckabee as we discussed whether or not a table was really a table and how language is merely shorthand for the thoughts in our brain). they gave us guiding questions for each of the four categories and discussed many ways we can teach children to think in these patterns.
(i love, LOVE that all of this research is actually turning into practical implications in the classroom. with the push for everything to be research based i feel like that doesn't mean very much most of the time. but this started with new information on the brain and decided to look at how it could be used to help kids)
i'd heard this all before actually, at the training i've previously blogged about. however, they were way off in their implementation of these theories and with their methods none of it really made sense. it just wasn't applicable or realistic.
this was different. they introduced blocks they've developed to help facilitate teaching children to think with these questions. (i love that they opened with the fact that you didn't need the blocks to teach the patterns of thinking, and that you really could do without them. the blocks are just there to help).
as someone who defended her thesis while destroying a paperclip in her hands under the table, i know i am a very kinesethetic person, and know that holding something tangible in my hands helps me learn. so i immediately went and tracked down the blocks to play with today.
and really, it was just playing. i tried little lessons with different friends but i think more than anything we enjoyed holding them, manipulating them, and enjoying the satisfying "clunk" when you drop a small one into the bigger one and say, "mom is a part of T's family". then taking the blocks out, lining them out, and counting them, only to drop them back in again.
today i used them with one student with emotional disabilities, one student with learning disabilities, and two students with autism. with the student with emotional disabilities we discussed the parts of the family (wholes/parts is a part of the system pattern of thinking). with the student with learning disabilities we used the blocks to look at how she and her twin sister are related (relationships pattern). with one student with autism we retold the parts of knuffle bunny. i realize none of this makes any sense if you haven't seen the blocks first. and i'm sorry. i'm still processing this all myself and hope that i'll be able to slow my mind down enough to really explain it all soon.
i found my fingers itching for the blocks during lessons when i hadn't thought i'd use them. to introduce a concept in guided reading, to have a student retell a story, to review the rules in line. and in my long afternoon meeting when we were discussing a student and how we may find him eligible for special education services, i wanted to pull them out and use them to analyze the little one.
i can see that i'm going to need to find a better way to transport them so i'll have them with me at all times.
splattypus blogged that i'd be able to write more about the training. i wrote a lot, but know that none of it made sense. i appologize, and direct you to her for a better imagine of what i'm trying to say.